How To Make A Plain Wedding Dress Better

Modular Wedding Dress

​By Mariana Kirova

Making own wedding dress without being a dressmaker is possible. You still don’t believe it? Follow me here and see how to make a plain wedding dress better only by adding crocheted or lace material and easy to find add-ons.

​No patterns or pattern making. Only time, love of lace and some pieces you probably already have at home (or can find in your local charity shop).

Sewing requirements – faster and better quality if you choose to use your sewing machine, but also achievable with the old hand-sewing patience :)

It’s a long post but you’ve got all the main steps here. I'm very happy with this project as it was included in my favourite Altered Couture US magazine, well known with its gorgeous upcycled artwear projects.

Pin the pictorial and save for later.

Modular Design Wedding Gown

The good part is that this alternative wedding dress is made of detachable pieces​, modules that you can add or remove depending on the mood or the occasion.

​For example, instead of hiding it after the big day, ​re-dress it for a party by removing the veil and the petticoat​. ​Designing with removable modules ​​is unique and could be a genuine show ​stopper ​for your creative ​skills.

Got you interested? Good!

​Let me tell you how this idea was put together and brought to life.

​Make It Versatile

After previously working in bridal alterations I knew there should be a better way of making a wedding gown that can be worn more than once. You’d invest SO much emotions, time, looking and money – it should bring you joy longer!

Reading about clothing having separable pieces spark the idea in me some time ago.

I first encountered the concept of using modules in clothing years ago in Alison Gwilt’s book A Practical Guide to Sustainable Fashion. The method generally means to make detachable parts in a garment, parts also called ‘modules’.

These modules can be added or removed and thus make the clothing more versatile to wear. Makes it easier to replace a module if there’s need or to repair.

What ​more you could wish for to be more caring for the planet AND enjoy a brilliantly thought dress you put your heart to make?

This wedding dress is the second article I have published in the US magazine Altered Couture (spring issue of 2018). It was a long time longing achievement for me which I’m very proud with.

Materials & Supplies

  • ​Plain formal or wedding dress
  • ​Tulle or thrifted tulle skirt, tulle piece for the veil
  • Tablecloth crochet cotton or lace
  • Man’s tie in coordinated colours
  • Cord or lace ribbon (for the petticoat skirt)
  • Covered buttons (for the neckpiece)
  • Snaps (for detachable veil)
  • Any coordinating colours fabrics and tulle scraps (for the flowers)
  • Optional: jewellery pieces (for centre of the flowers)
  • Sewing Supplies: sewing machine, basic sewing supplies and a dress form

Technique

Making The Plain Dress Look Better

Use the plain dress you already have as a base. I used a silk dress I’ve made before but you don’t have to.

  • 1
    First do the skirt. Lay the crochet cloth following the original skirt and cut with seam allowances. Make only one seam, at the centre back. Cut hem around the floral motives for interesting hem feature.
  • 2
    Then do the bodice. Put the dress on a dress form and drape the crochet material around the bodice leaving seam allowances around.

For high quality finish use sewing machine, if you are more experienced. Undo the neckline, waist seams and zipper to incorporate and re-stitch the new material.

If you are not ​that experienced on the machine, then you might prefer to hand-stitch and attach the cover along ​above explained seams.

The Belt And The Flowers

  • 1
    Decorate the tie with pretty scraps (visible well on the ​photo of the whole dress at the beginning) .
  • 2
    Sew a flower at the end of the tie (right side) and a button (on the wrong side). Do that for the other end of the tie.
  • 3
    ​Then, drape the belt and find where to place a loop to button it up. Make a hand loop with thread (like in this video) or stitch piece of the crochet material to use the holes as a loop.

For the flowers cut thin rectangular strips from fabric and or tulle scraps. Bundle them together and stitch in the centre. Add ​crochet cut-outs for richer look.

Embellish the centre of each flower with pretty jewellery piece, an earring or a fancy button.

​If you fancy flowers like me,  look up a bit of different lace flowers in this T-shirt refashion project.

The Neckpiece

  • 1
    Drape the neckpiece on the form (or on you in front of mirror). Drape the front and back parts separately aligning to shoulder seam. You will stitch them together later.
  • 3
    Cut around following the crochet motives.
  • 4
    Sew the right shoulder seam where front and back pieces meet. On the other, stitch buttons on one side and use the holes of the crochet on the other for loops.
  • 5
    Decorate the front and back with flower cut-outs from the crochet or ​do similar flowers as for the belt. Finish off with ​a beautiful jewellery piece in the centre.

Making The Wedding Dress Modules

Let me tell you shortly the story how I found my three ‘Cinderellas’. All three of them! Surely, it’ll convince you that having an open mind is good, even if you go to a very specific thing in the charity shop nearby.

Held a couple of times throughout the year, I often go to a big garage sale for a charity organisation in Perth WA where I live. We buy there our shoes and other clothing or household items.

At one of my visits I once found three obviously destined for the landfill ex wedding gown samples.

Very sad, worn out from the hundreds of try-ons from brides-to-be, they were dirty, tired, ripped up in places. One even with the top layer of skirt missing, apparently in an impulsive attempt of the dressmaker to save the precious lace from being wasted.

 They three were standing there fading in their lost beauty. I stepped up to feed my maker’s hunger further. And touched them…

I felt the softest brush my hands had ever sensed. Made out of fine silk chiffons, gentle tulle petticoats, gorgeous taffeta skirts and lustrous lining underneath! It must've cost a fortune, I thought and looked at the price tag. Deep joy was coming from inside. It was a half-price sale day for this hidden beauties. Now only $17.50 each!

 I called these left behind ex-sample wedding dresses, enchanting thrift finds likely coming from a fairy tale my three ‘Cinderellas’ (I still love fairy tales, do you?)...

The funniest part of the story is that these were from a local boutique bridal studio I used to work for a while ago. What are the odds?

Now, back to the making part.

The Petticoat Skirt

Reuse thrifted tulle skirt. Or make a long half circle skirt from a couple of tulle layers.

  • 1
    Make a casing on the waist and insert a ribbon (or cord) to tie the petticoat skirt on the waist. On the photo below is shown, I stitched a lace ribbon for casing and left tails to tie up (at centre back). And then I inserted a darker cord to gather around waist as needed.
  • 2
    Decorate the petticoat with different shape cut-out appliques from the crochet and pearls or jewellery pieces. To do that put the petticoat underneath the wedding dress on a dress form. Pin or tackle the appliques in place to machine sew or hand-stitch to secure.

Positioning the crochet cut-outs before sewing​

No special needle or thread is needed to machine sew. The crochet material is firm enough to sew it as it is a normal woven fabric. Check out this cardigan refashion done with the same lace applique technique.

The Veil

To make the veil, use any tulle remnant.

  • 1
    Cut out half a circle using the circular side for the hem.
  • 2
    Drape the veil to figure out where to attach it to the neckpiece. Fold the tulle along the top to make it stronger.
  • 3
    Add snaps there and sew the snap's corresponding part at wrong side of the neckpiece. That way, where two modules are snapped together, the tulle veil will be underneath the neckpiece and all snaps will be covered.
  • 4
    Embellish the veil with small crochet cut outs and pearls for 3-dimentional glamor.

Done! This is how to make your own wedding gown at home by prettying up a plain dress and make it better.

The Wedding Dress Final Look

My wedding day was long time but with this project I achieved two longing wishes I had. To make a wedding dress that transforms for longer life and to have a cute formal dress in my wardrobe.

I hope you will find yourself inspired to make other modular clothing decorated with lacy material, fun and versatile to wear! Here’s another summer project with lace.

​I hope you enjoyed this project! Lots of work finally done.

Let me know, are you attracted to crochet and similar sort of materials? Don't be shy and tell me in the comments.

Happy lace dreaming :)

Mariana

Mariana Kirova

Mariana is passionate about garment upcycling and helping others to make their own upcycled clothing. Graduated with Award in garment construction from WAIFT, Perth WA, Mariana is not a main stream eco fashion designer. She makes unique eco-friendly garments from unwanted clothes and materials and believes that small fashion professionals and DIY sewers can embrace sustainability in garment creation, thus changing the fashion world for good.

  • Laura says:

    Your vision is amazing. I am inspired to go find a neglected bridal gown and remake it even though I have no plans to marry soon. Thank you and much love. Keep making, I loveeeeee it

  • Hi Mariana, I use doileys and tablecloths also to make wedding dresses and clothing. I especially like to use special hand made or sentimental doileys in my garments. I have a web site http://www.chrisscreations.net if interested and a Facebook page as well with lots of photos. Regards Chris

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